FORT POLK, Louisiana –
Prior to his soldiers arriving to the Joint Readiness Training Center, or JRTC, at Fort Polk, Louisiana, to take part in a bilateral training exercise, Gen. Estevam Cals Theophilo, commander, Brazilian Army Land Operations Command, emphasized the importance of his troops being ready for the next conflict.
“Our mentality must be that are prepared to fight in combat,” Theophilo said. “We can go a thousand years without war, but we can’t afford one second without being prepared to fight when war arises.”
Theophilo, along with Brig. Gen. Lynn Heng, U.S. Army South deputy commanding general, were able to see firsthand the Brazilian troops train in the area known as the “Box” during a visit to JRTC, Aug. 24-26 as part of a Distinguished Visitors Day.
“This training for us is very important,” Theophilo said. “We know this kind of exercise replicates fighting in true combat and the realness of this exercise prepares us to be ready.”
The Brazilian Army, or Exército Brasileiro (EB), participation in JRTC is the part of an agreed to activity which was included in a five-year plan developed between the EB and U.S. Army South during annual Army-to-Army Staff Talks. The Staff Talks Program promotes bilateral efforts in order to develop professional partnerships and increase interaction between partner nation armies.
Having arrived at Louisiana in early August, a company element of the 5th Light Infantry Battalion (Air Mobile) integrated with the 2nd Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment (White Currahee), 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) as part of rotation 22-09 to conduct tactical infantry operations, exercise interoperability, and strengthen their ability to plan and execute complex maneuver operations.
The mission of the JRTC and Fort Polk is to train Brigade Combat Teams to conduct large scale combat operations on the decisive action battlefield against a near-peer threat with multi-domain capabilities. JRTC Rotation 22-09 was the second time a Brazilian Army unit came to the Combat Training Center (CTC) to train with a U.S. Army brigade.
Once on the ground, the Brazilian soldiers were praised for their professionalism, tactical skills and ability to embed with their U.S. Army counterparts. While training in the Box, the Brazilians were given after action reviews by the Observer-Controllers, where they were given feedback on what they planned to do, what actually happened, and engaged with the opposing forces to learn what they did well and what they could improve on.
“They’ve done an exceptional job of deliberate planning, conducting rehearsals and understanding the mission they have to accomplish and moving to that location to accomplish that mission,” said Maj. Micah Chapman, JRTC Operations Group Task Force 3 executive officer. “They’re really effective in terms of security – whether its short halts, long halts, securing themselves, securing an area and having an active mindset of understanding the situation and responding, when necessary, lethally.”
Although much attention during the bilateral training engagement was focused on kinetic and tactical operations at the company and platoon-level, a critical area the Brazilian Army wanted to improve was developing leaders at their combat training centers to be more realistic to train their soldiers for combat.
A small contingent, comprised of several officers and noncommissioned officers, embedded with the JRTC Operations Group and completed an abbreviated academy where they could capture and coach the best practices of combined arms maneuver.
“We put them right in where they were able to make decisions, do coaching and adjudicate fights that were taking place between friendly and enemy forces,” Chapman said. “There are some differences between the way the U.S. Army go about observing, coaching, and training, and they desire to move in our direction.”
After watching his soldiers take part in the blank fire rehearsal, Lt. Col. Attila Balczó, commander, 5th Light Infantry Battalion (Air Mobile), gleamed with pride in describing their actions upon seizing the objective.
“I am very proud,” Balczó said. “We had many exercises and spent more than 120 days in the field to prepare our soldiers for this training. When I saw our soldiers executing on the battlefield here today, it was gratifying to see that our preparation had great results. They put on a good showing in simulated combat and their performance allows us to have interoperability with our U.S. partners.”
Balczó added that JRTC allowed the best environment for his soldiers to improve their capabilities and they will return to Brazil with much experience and become better trained to fight.
Army South Deputy Commanding General Brig. Gen. Lynn Heng mentioned the United States is fortunate to have the caliber of soldiers the Brazilian Army possesses as our allies to protect mutual security interests in the Western Hemisphere.
“We need to do these types of exercises to build upon our defensive capabilities and we enjoy doing these types of exercises, especially with Brazil, which further enhances our interoperability,” Heng said. “Brazil has been a key partner for us in the U.S. Southern Command area of operations for many decades and will be for many to come.”
Heng added as part of Army South’s motto ‘Defense and Fraternity” that it is imperative the command keep strong the fraternity with Brazil so that both armies remain successful in meeting training objectives and strengthening partnerships
Following three hours of continuous assault on the rough central-Louisiana terrain, Theophilo addressed the soldiers, where he commended their efforts and recognized the occasion of Dia do Soldado (Day of the Soldier) – a Brazilian national holiday on Aug. 25 commemorating the birthday of the Duke of Caxias, patron of the Brazilian Army.
He asked his sweat-drenched, muddied and exhausted soldiers on their impressions of the training and received responses expressing how it was a unique opportunity to work with U.S. soldiers, gain new experiences and familiarization with the CH-47 helicopter, share best practices and tactics, and train in a different climate.
“Our countries have always been friends in military matters,” Theopilo said. “We have conducted training in the jungles of Brazil and now we’re training together here at Fort Polk. At the end of the day, this is what matters. Being ready for war is only possible through much practice, adjustments and more practice. Without field exercises, conversations aren’t worth anything.”
Finally, the general reminded his troops, “The U.S. is our principal ally – we have no doubt about that.”